The parents should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
He or she can usually represent all people injured in the collision, including the parents if they were the driver or passenger. One or both of them will represent their child/children as their guardian or “next friend.”
The car accident attorney will attempt to negotiate a favorable settlement, depending on the facts of the case. If this can be accomplished, the adults can settle their claims and and receive their proceeds immediately. If a good settlement cannot be reached, the injury lawyer will file a lawsuit.
However, the child cannot be paid until he or she reaches the age of 18 and is emancipated. Until then, they obviously do not have the legal capacity to make decisions, including hiring an attorney or settling a personal injury claim. Instead, the parents will approve the final settlement or decide to file a lawsuit.
Many times, an attractive settlement can be attained. At that time, the parents’ lawyer files what seems like an oxymoron — a”friendly lawsuit” where the details have been agreed to in advance.
THE ROLE OF THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM
The judge appoints a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s best interests. They investigate the case, meet with the parents, consult with the attorneys involved, and study the medical records and bills. They advise the court whether the offer is fair, all medical bills have been paid or will be paid, and the needs of the child have been carefully considered.
When I am appointed by a judge as the guardian ad litem, I also reduce or further cut down outstanding medical bills and liens to get the child a larger recovery of money.
The parties appear before the judge (by Zoom during the pandemic) at a hearing. The minor child does not need to attend. The court hears the testimony and normally approves the settlement.
This hearing is required or the child could file a lawsuit when he or she attains the age of 18. A record is made showing that the parents and the insurance company understood the legal details to prevent future disputes.
The fee for the guardian ad litem is paid for by the insurance company.